Minnesota supports a healthy industry that grows and packages beans used for soups, chilis, tacos, and burritos. Farmers harvest about 250 million pounds of beans each year and most of it is exported. Plant scientists with the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station have studied this specialty crop since the 1950s. Researchers tested hundreds of varieties, identified the best performers, worked on field practices, improved processing, and helped create products and a new industry in the 1970s.
Some of the market classes of beans grown here — and their main uses — include:
- Adzuki — salads, soups, vegetable burgers, confectionary uses in Japan
- Pinto — chili, bean dip, refried beans, burritos, export markets
- Navy — soups, baked beans, export to England
- Kidney — chili, salads, baked dishes
- Great northern — soups, stews, cassoulet, export to England
- Black turtle — Cajun dishes, soups, beans and rice, export to Central and South America
- Cranberry — specialty bean dishes, soups, spreads
Minnesota now leads the nation in production of dark red kidney beans, with four times the harvest of the next competitor, Michigan. About 165,000 acres of fieldbeans are grown, in the Red River Valley and on irrigated sandy soil between Elk River, Park Rapids, and Wadena. The crop adds diversity to consumers' diets, to farm income, and to Minnesota agriculture.